Best practices for building an offboarding experience
Est. Read Time: 3 min.
Over the past five weeks, jobless claims have totaled more than 26 million and that number might grow. We simply don’t know. What we do know is that our employees didn’t create this situation. If organizations are planning to lay off staff, it should be done with respect. That means creating an offboarding experience that gives employees the information they need and dignity they deserve.
If your organization doesn’t already have an offboarding plan in place, now is the time to think about creating one. The good news is that an offboarding process can be created using many of the same touchpoints from the company’s onboarding process. Here’s an offboarding plan that might be used during a traditional voluntary termination. In the case of a layoff, the timing of certain activities can be adjusted but honestly, many of the activities will remain the same.
During the notice period
With a typical employee resignation, there will be some sort of notice period where the employee will be wrapping up projects. Sometimes when organizations are eliminating a department or division, they will also give employees notice that they’re shutting down an operation. If that’s the case, be sure to discuss the circumstances with legal counsel to make sure the organization doesn’t have any obligations under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN Act).
Thank the employee for their contributions! The employee did an excellent job while they were working with you. And talk with them about any announcements regarding their departure in terms of communications to both coworkers and customers.
Confirm the employee’s last day and outline the exiting process. Let employees know what they can expect over the notice period. This sounds obvious but employees don’t have the exiting process memorized because they haven’t done it.
Explain the ending of benefit coverages like health insurance, 401(k), vacation, etc. Just like when an employee was hired, they wanted to know when their benefits start, now they want to know when benefits end.
Talk about transitioning work projects and training coworkers. Depending on the circumstances, the employee might simply be letting their manager know the status or they could be helping a coworker get up to speed. Ask for their help with the transition.
Employee’s last day (or last couple of days)
If the employee has been working a notice period, then the last couple of days are designed to finalize the employee’s exit. This time frame is especially important to the organization because it’s the time frame when the organization will want to collect any assets in the employee’s possession. This isn’t to imply that the employee would do something nefarious with the company’s equipment or data, but it just makes good business sense to have a formal way to collect these items. And honestly, employees would feel better knowing the company has them back.
Collect any company property such as ID cards, keys, and technology (hardware and software). If employees work remotely, talk with them about returning and/or destroying any company papers. Company software should be removed from any personal laptops, tablets, and phones.
Remind the employee of the company’s policy about references. It might also be appropriate to remind them about any non-disclosure, non-compete, and non-solicitation agreements. Also remind the employee to turn in any outstanding expense reports for processing.
If it makes sense, do something fun to celebrate and wish the employee well.
After the employee departs
Offboarding doesn’t end on the employee’s last day. There are still a few more steps that the organization needs to do to complete the process. These steps aren’t designed to create separation between the former employee and the organization. Rather, these steps are to bring closure because it’s possible that the organization might want or need to stay in touch with the former employee.
Prepare employee termination paperwork and update any organizational documents. Depending on the position, internal directories, organizational charts, etc. might need updating. This will help current employees find the right company contact when they need to.
Make sure the employee receives their final paycheck and any outstanding expenses. If the former employee has any questions about benefits, direct them to the right vendor. They might need help with COBRA or a 401(k) rollover.
Conduct the exit interview. Organizations might want to consider conducting exit interviews after the employee leaves and think about using a third-party. Putting some time between an employee’s departure and their exit interview can help create some perspective. Employees might provide more objective and honest responses.
Invite the former employee to participate in an alumni group. Depending on the circumstances of the employee’s exit, it could make sense to let the employee participate in an alumni group where they might be able to provide customer and candidate referrals.
As the organization is developing their offboarding process, one other thing that organizations should consider is what steps in the process would benefit from the use of technology.
Organizations with limited resources might find that having an automated solution handle certain steps, allows them to spend more time delivering a more human experience. Technology also allows organizations to have a clear record of what steps have taken place in the offboarding process. This can allow the organization to deliver a consistent experience. Finally, none of us want to talk about it, but using technology could also be helpful if organizations have to offboard large numbers of employees at the same time.
Offboarding experiences impact the bottom line
Employees will remember the way they were treated when they left the organization. They will share that information with others, which has a direct impact on the organizational brand. In addition, former employees can choose to return to the organization. Or refer candidates and customers. Whether an employee leaves voluntarily or involuntarily, it just makes good business sense to treat an employee with respect and dignity.
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About Sharlyn Lauby
Sharlyn Lauby is the HR Bartender and president of ITM Group Inc., a Florida based training and human resources consulting firm focused on helping companies retain and engage talent. Sharlyn sees human resources as a strategic partner - the marketing department for a company’s internal clients rather as administrative. During her 20+ years in the profession, she has earned a reputation for bringing business solutions to reality. Prior to starting ITM Group, Sharlyn was vice president of human resources for Right Management Consultants, one of the world’s largest organizational consulting firms. She has designed and implemented highly successful programs for employee retention, internal and external customer satisfaction, and leadership development. Publications such as Reuters, The New York Times, ABC News, TODAY, Readers Digest, Men’s Health and The Wall Street Journal have sought out her expertise on topics related to human resources and workplace issues.